Music makes the heart grow fonder, but scientists are not so sure that it boosts IQ.
The Boston Globe notes:
"The idea that learning to play an instrument, read music, or sing in harmony will boost intelligence has become ingrained in modern life, but the evidence has always been pretty scant. Mehr traces the idea that music provides a cognitive boost to an influential paper published in 1993 in the journal Nature, which described a "Mozart effect." Listening to a Mozart sonata could increase performance on tests of spatial reasoning, the study found."
However, a new study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, shakes up some of that cherished wisdom.
He's the short of it, according to the Globe: "Contrary to popular belief, a study—led by a Harvard graduate student who plays the saxophone, flute, bassoon, oboe, and clarinet—found no cognitive benefits to music lessons."
The authors noted that while "some studies have found associations between musical training in childhood and later nonmusical cognitive outcomes," few randomized controlled trials, or RCTs, had been employed to test the hypothesis.
They outlined their methodology, using groups of preschool children, that sought to compare students who received "a brief series of music classes" to those that received a similar form of non-musical (visual) arts instruction to a control group that got no specialized training.
"[Overall], children provided with music classes performed no better than those with visual arts or no classes on any assessment," the authors wrote in the abstract.
"Our findings underscore the need for replication in [randomized controlled trials], and suggest caution in interpreting the positive findings from past studies of cognitive effects of music instruction.
The Globe says:
"The work is part of a trend in the field of psychology in which researchers are beginning to wrestle with studies whose results can't be reproduced. Last month, an international consortium of psychology laboratories published the results of an attempt to replicate the findings of 13 experiments, and found that only 10 of the findings solidly held up."
The holiday season is about spending time with families. For a lot of families, it comes with conflict as well as cheer.
For Diane Abu-Jaber, author of a memoir on food and family called The Language of Baklava, her grandmother's annual arrival for a Christmastime visit meant lots of cookies and a boatload of bickering between her German-American Gram and her Jordanian immigrant father.
The cookie it all boils down to, Abu-Jaber told All Things Considered's Melissa Block, the is the wurstcake - a not-too-sweet slice'n'bake cookie her grandmother made with lots of spice - and perhaps a hint of spite. Grandmother Grace Belford just didn't approve of her Jordanian son-in-law.
"She saw him as an interloper. He was this Muslim menace, you know, who was coming to steal her only daughter," Diana says. "And so this manifested itself in their conversations whenever they would get together on the holidays."
It would start slowly, Diane recalls, but would come to a boil.
"She would pick at him and peck at him and talk about Jordanians and Muslims and eventually he would break down and jump into the fray," she says.
Gram would insult his Jordanian heritage, imply Muslims were savages. "And my father would say 'Actually the Muslims invented civilization,' and he would go away into these long disquisitions about the nature of reality the history of the world as seen by Gus Abu-Jaber," she says.
Diane says her grandmother found the fights upsetting, and left her agitated and exhausted. To her father, she says, they were merely a more exciting form of conversation.
"Dad would kind of sigh contentedly and say, 'Ahh, do you have any more of those Catholic cookies? (That's what he called the wurstcakes — Catholic cookies)," she says. "And my grandmother would be furious and storm off."
From the sharpness of their battles, Diane and her sisters always assumed their father and Gram really couldn't stand each other. But when their grandmother died, they watched their father kneel by her coffin and weep.
"He missed her, he missed his old adversary," Diane says. "It was a great lesson to us because it taught us that enemies can come to rely on each other, and even to love each other. ... I think of it as the lesson of the wurstcake, because you realize from something like the wurstcake that cookies don't have to be too sweet — that all things find their balance and need their balance. And for my father, my grandmother was his balance."
Grace Belford's Wurstcakes
Makes about 12 dozen
3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoon water, plus additional if necessary
2 large eggs, beaten
8 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Sliced blanched almonds, for decorating (optional)
Red and green sanding sugar, for decorating (optional)
In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, brown cinnamon, allspice, and clove. In small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons water. Stir into flour mixture, along with eggs and butter. With hands, knead well until dough forms smooth ball.
Divide dough into 3 even pieces. Shape each into 2-inch-diameter "wurst" or sausage shape. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or up to 1 week.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
With sharp knife, cut dough into 1/8-inch slices. Place on prepared cookie sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
In small bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir until smooth, adding small amounts of additional water if needed to achieve creamy consistency. Spread icing on cookies. If desired, press almond slices into icing or sprinkle sanding sugar onto icing. Let harden.
But an intriguing thing happened on an image search today: I came across a set of photos I'd never seen before. Tucked away on the far end of Long Island, about 70 miles east of New York City, is the Calverton Executive Airpark.
It's where tens of thousands of vehicles damaged by Superstorm Sandy were lined up in neat rows at the beginning of the year.
Insurance Auto Auctions, I learned, is a salvage company that specializes in vehicles that are in really bad shape. They secured the airport to temporarily hold the damaged cars and trucks deemed a total loss by insurance companies. The vehicles were then auctioned off online or junked.
Eric Consorte with Insurance Auto Auctions on Long Island said that his company dealt with more than 50,000 cars from all over New York after Sandy, and many of them ended up here. But all the cars are gone now. Consorte says the runway has been clear of cars for at least six months.
Old Man Luedecke makes his first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of East Tennessee State University. A native of Nova Scotia, Chris Luedecke isn't actually old, but his music clearly draws from his remarkable ear for the music and melodies of years gone by.
Despite his affinity for old-time bluegrass and folk, Luedecke isn't afraid to incorporate subtle, hummable pop hooks into his songs, as heard in his opening number "Kingdom Come." His fifth album, Tender Is the Night, was produced by West Virginia native Tim O'Brien, who recently appeared on Mountain Stage. Here, Luedecke plays banjo and guitar alongside Joel E. Hunt on mandolin and violin.
- "Kingdom Come"
- "This May Hurt A Bit"
- "Johah And The Whale"
- "Song For Ian Tyson"
Deer Tick visits the WXPN studio to perform songs from its fifth album, Negativity. Of all the material the band has released over the past seven years, this record contains some of lead singer John McCauley's most personal songwriting yet.
McCauley has matured considerably in recent years: The musician curtailed his oft-cited heavy drinking after his engagement collapsed, and had to watch his father serve a sentence in federal prison. From all this, Negativity was born. A reflective McCauley describes how those difficult moments translated to his writing on Thursday's episode of World Cafe.
- "The Dream's In The Ditch"
- "The Curtain"
- "I Can't Help It"